Skip to main content

tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  February 21, 2011 7:00pm-8:00pm EST

7:00 pm
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> brown: good evening. i'm jeffrey brown. libyan security forces fired on demonstrators, leaving hundreds dead or wounded as antigovernment protests engulfed the capital, tripoli, for the first time. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight, we get the latest on this bloody challenge to moammar gadhafi's 42-year regime. >> brown: then, two budget stories: an update on the "week of rage" over union bargaining rights and benefits in wisconsin. >> woodruff: and we look at the political face-off here in washington after the republican controlled house voted to cut federal spending this year by $61 billion. >> brown: plus, margaret warner explores the problem of sexual harassment and violence against women in egypt, and whether the revolution will change it.
7:01 pm
>> woodruff: and we have the story of one activist who became a symbol of the young protestors after she took to the cairo streets. >> i told you this day was coming. you didn't believe me. now it's here. i feel as though i've been vindicated. >> brown: that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> breathe in. breathe out. as volatile as markets have been lately having the security of a strong financial partner certainly lets you breathe easier. for more than 140 years pacific life has helped millions of americans build a secure financial future. wouldn't it be nice to take a deep breath and relax? your financial professional can tell you about pacific life, the power to help you succeed. >> you can't manufacture pride.
7:02 pm
but pride builds great cars. and you'll find it in the people at toyota all across america. chevron. and by bnsf railway. >> and by the bill and melinda gates foundation. dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live a healthy, productive life. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> brown: libyan leader moammar gadhafi fought to hold onto
7:03 pm
power today. his forces fired on protesters from the air and ground, killing scores of people, adding to estimates of 300 to 400 slain in the last week. the assault came as antigovernment demonstrations reached tripoli, the country's capital. several top officials resigned in protest, but the military geared up to stop more demonstrations tonight. foreign journalists were barred from libya, but some pictures and information were still getting out. we begin with this report from simon israel of independent television news. >> reporter: the protests have spread. on the streets in colonel gadhafi's backyard, the capital tripoli, demonstrators have had to run for their lives. they've been met with armed resistance. these pictures have evaded the state's internet crackdown. dozens are said to have been
7:04 pm
killed. last night the regime was defiant. one of gadhafi's sons went on television to proclaim they would fight until the last man standing. a warning of doom. >> there will be civil war. we will go back to the civil war of 1936. we will kill each other in the streets. libya is not egypt or tunisia. libya has oil which has unified libya. >> reporter: but not for much longer. if reports emerging from the north african country are to be believed gadhafi has fled. there has been no sighting of him since he appeared on state tv in a choreographed display of popularity. protestors are said to have taken control of at least half a dozen main towns surrounding tripoli. in response, military aircraft are reported to have shelled roads lead to go the capital and to have fired live rounds on demonstrators in the city itself.
7:05 pm
>> we saw the airplanes go by over us and it's really bad here. we still hear gunshots. it's getting (inaudible). they were sent back because they were shooting the doctors and people at the hospital. >> reporter: in contrast two libyan fighter jets landed in malta today amid reports the pilots refused to attack their own people. but tripoli is becoming more violent by the hour. the u.n. secretary general has been in direct contact with the libyan leader and told him to stop immediately. even the country's own u.n. delegation has accused georgia gadhafi of committing genocide. the focus has shifted from benghazi where it all began. today gadhafi's green flag no longer flies there. it's been replaced by the symbol of freedom, the country's old national flag but at what cost?
7:06 pm
>> woodruff: the libyan regime denied that gadhafi had left the country, but others were leaving. several european countries planned to evacuate their citizens. the u.s. state department also ordered non-essential diplomats and relatives to leave. and reports from benghazi said several thousand turkish workers were sheltering at a soccer stadium. outside the country, meanwhile, protesters gathered at libyan embassies from egypt to australia. hundreds of people rallied in cairo, shouting for gadhafi to go. and the secretary-general of the arab league voiced deep concern over the bloodshed in libya. >> brown: for more on what's going on inside libya, we're joined by dirk vandewalle, associate professor of government at dartmouth college and author of "a history of modern libya."
7:07 pm
and nejla abdurrahman, a libyan- american activist, and a doctoral student in the department of middle eastern studies at columbia university. najla, i'll start with you. it remains a very difficult time and place to get news out of. you've been talking to people in the country. what do you hear going on today? >> what we're hearing is very scattered reports depending on where you are in tripoli you're getting very different news. last night everybody knows protestors started heading out into the streets especially in the central downtown area. in the thousands. from what we're hearing, people started pouring out especially after the speech. they were very angered by the speech. there was a lot of shooting last night. a lot of people were in the hospital. we have contact with people who are in those hospitals. many, many bodies. we have reports these are eyewitness reports so the media hasn't reported these yet. i'll preface it with that. security forces were coming to the hospitals and shooting victims in the hospitals, that they were threatening doctors, intimidating them. that they were even taking
7:08 pm
names of victims which i can presume is to take retaliation against the families. today it's been even worse. >> brown: we should say there are reports right now that moammar gadhafi may speak at any moment. dirk vandewalle most of us never hear very much of this country except reports about moammar gadhafi. fill us in a little bit. where is this opposition coming from? how organized is it? how surprising are these developments of the last few days? >> well, first of all to answer your last question first, these developments are extremely surprising. this is a regime that even seasoned observers would have predicted would be extremely hard to dislodge. in part because georgia kaffe over a 40-year period has very systematically eviscerated any opposition to his rule. he has divided the army along tribal affiliation. he has made sure that there are no opposition that could
7:09 pm
materialize throughout the country. and in a sense what we've now started to see is that suddenly for all the doubts that anybody had about the ability of libyans to organize, that they have been able to do so and that furthermore if tripoli is kind of the jewel in the crown and green square in tripoli is the symbol of the regime where gadhafi even three days ago, as judy reported, had been showing up and giving speeches, that suddenly even those places are no longer secret. the opposition comes primarily from younger people but also from all different strata throughout society. this is in a sense a country that is fed up 40 years of utter mismanaged in which all people have been politically disenfranchised and in which a lot of the wealth of the country has frankly been squandered on projects that
7:10 pm
had nothing to do with the well being of libyans themselves. >> brown: how vulnerable then is moammar gadhafi? and where does he still have support coming from? >> i mean, i don't know. we got reports earlier that gadhafi's compound in tripoli which is heavily guarded, you probably know there have been reports that fighter jets have been firing indiscriminately into the city. we got reports earlier that said that even the guards that were guarding have fled because these fighter jets are just firing at everyone on the street. anti-gadhafi, anyone, even pro gadhafi people. everybody is getting shot at. i mean, i don't know what the situation is right now. >> brown: you referred earlier to the speech last night by his son. >> right. >> brown: was there any surprise there... he raised the specter of a civil war. any surprise in him doing that? any surprise in the level of ferocity with which the government is fighting back
7:11 pm
now? >> i mean, yes. i mean, it's surprising. we all knew that gadhafi was capable of heinous acts of brew brutality but i think honestly nobody expected, even the professor would say that nobody expected what's happening now. the thing that i'm most afraid of is that people will look at libya now and they'll say what they predicted was right. it's unstable. there's civil war. there's just chaos and the libyans need a strong man like gadhafi but i think people really need to understand that it is the gadhafi regime and the gadhafi family that has caused all of the chaos and all the violence that is happening right now. >> brown: professor vandewalle, what would you add to that about the level of the push-back from gadhafi, the speech last night from his son? >> well, i thought the speech by his son was particularly disappointing. it was particularly
7:12 pm
disappointing because he has been considered and certainly considered himself as the major reformer of the libyan political system. and then suddenly we saw the so-called reformer go on national television and announce that the regime would defend itself, as he put it, until the last bullet. and then repeat it in a fashion that perfectly mirrored and echoed what his father has been saying for 40 years. what would happen if libyans wouldn't rally around the flag, so to speak? he said the americans will come in. islamic movements will come in. ultimately we will be at the mercy of the west and we will be at the mercy of a civil war that will engulf us. now.... >> brown: i'm sorry. go ahead. >> perhaps in 1973, 1974, this kind of language probably still resonated along libyans while gadhafi was nationalizing oil companies and so on. but certainly to call for a
7:13 pm
national dialogue as his son did last night, after more than 200 people had been killed showed in many ways the surreal sense of that speech and how in the end despite his pre-tensions for reform he rallied around his father and around the family. it was in many ways one of the very worst kind of speeches that could have been given and in many ways i would consider it certainly a tipping point in terms of where events are going now in libya. >> brown: hillary clinton put out a fairly strong statement just a little while ago. what of the u.s. response here? and how much influence, if any, does it have? do you have any sense of what people inside are looking out to the rest of the world for? >> you know, if we were speaking a few days ago, i would say that putting pressure on the gadhafi regime, asking them to stop the violence that was occurring, that's what we were asking for,
7:14 pm
for them to make a stronger statement than what they had been making over the last few days. she did release a strongly worded statement a couple hours ago. but with the level, the escalation in the violence and what's happening now, no libyan wanted to see foreign peacekeepers or any foreign troops or anything coming in to the country. no libyan wants to see that now. but i think at this point with this type of a massacre that's going on, i feel like, you know, there has to be some sort of a peace-keeping mission. if this doesn't stop very soon. >> brown: and briefly, professor, does it look like something... something of some sort is coming to a head here? what do you look to? >> yes. i think we're really in the end-game here. in many ways either this will be resolved in favor of the government, in favor of the security forces that gadhafi has always rallied around him because there is really no true professional army that
7:15 pm
can interfere in libya and stand between the demonstrators and the government. on the other hand, a victory for those who are rising up against gadhafi regime. either way. i would venture this will be a very bloody outcome. it will leave libya in a large amount of chaos that will probably haunt it for several weeks if not months if not years. >> brown: all right. dirk vandewalle, najla abdurrahman, thank >> woodruff: elsewhere in the arab world today, a tense calm prevailed in bahrain after security troops and the army pulled back over the weekend. crowds marched in the persian gulf kingdom, where the u.s. navy's fifth fleet is based. opposition youth-- mostly shiite-- demanded the sunni khalifa monarchy be overthrown. much. >> our arguments are so clean. we don't want them to control us anymore. enough.
7:16 pm
200 years is enough. we don't want them anymore. we want our people to control. we want to vote. >> brown: in yemen, thousands of people rallied again in the capital and several other cities. but once more, president ali abdullah saleh refused to step down. instead, he offered again to open talks on reforms. saleh said he's ordered troops not to fire at protesters except in self-defense. at least 11 people have been killed in yemen since the unrest began, including one person today. and in morocco, five bodies were found inside a burned bank. there were widespread demonstrations on sunday. the protesters demanded king mohammed give up some of his powers and put an end to corruption. >> woodruff: still to come on the newshour, the wisconsin budget standoff; washington's spending cuts divide; sexual harassment in egypt after the uprisings; and one revolutionary's story. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan.
7:17 pm
sreenivasan: the bloodshed in libya rattled the oil markets. prices surged on fears of chaos in one of the world's largest oil-producing states. the cost jumped $4 in new york trading, back above $90 a barrel. u.s. stock markets were closed for president's day. british prime minister david cameron visited egypt today, the first world leader to do so since president mubarak resigned. cameron told officials in cairo he wants to help ensure a "genuine transition" to civilian rule takes place. he did not meet with members of the long-banned muslim brotherhood. meanwhile, activists planned new demonstrations tomorrow against old guard elements in the interim government. and egypt's top prosecutor called for freezing mubarak's foreign assets. protests prevented there were no signs of major protests in china, after the government moved sunday to stop rallies before they could start. police detained dozens of activists following online calls to demonstrate in beijing, shanghai, and 11 other major cities. security men also dispersed hundreds of onlookers. in addition, dozens of activists were rounded up, and the chinese
7:18 pm
government censored some internet postings. in afghanistan, at least 30 people were killed by a suicide bomber in the north. the attacker blew himself up in kunduz province, outside a government office. at least 40 people were wounded. many of those killed were waiting in line to get government i.d. cards. the area has seen an increase in attacks in recent months. also today, a nato soldier died in southern afghanistan, the 55th this year. and a suicide car bomber in iraq killed at least 12 police officers. the car detonated near their station in samarra, north of baghdad. more than 22 people were wounded. the police battalion had been called in to protect shiite pilgrims returning from a religious ceremony. there was word today an american being held in pakistan had been working for the c.i.a. today the "new york times" and others reported raymond davis was a contractor helping to track militants. davis has been held since he shot and killed two pakistanis in lahore. he said they men were trying to rob him. the u.s. insisted again today that davis has diplomatic immunity, and should be released.
7:19 pm
japan has begun a search for human remains at a tokyo site linked to biological warfare during world war ii. the excavation at a former army medical school could prove the japanese army's unit 731 experimented on prisoners of war. historians have said the unit's victims may have numbered 250,000, most of them chinese. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to judy. >> woodruff: now we turn to the big battles over spending playing out in the states and here in washington. we begin with the latest in wisconsin. thousands of people began their second week of protest in full force this afternoon. >> union busting. >> woodruff: the public workers gathered at the wisconsin state capital say they are prepared to make concessions on benefits to help trim deficits between now and 2013. but they remain vehemently opposed to governor scott walker's plan to curb or end
7:20 pm
collective bargaining rights for most public sector unions. walker was asked about that point today on "good morning, america. >> governor, they already said they're willing to give up on the health care. they already said that. >> that's a red herring. but you can say anything in the debate. in december after i was elected but before i sworn in they tried to ram through a bill to push forward and lock in state employee health care, state employee health contracts. the bottom line is they can say these things but there are 424 school districts. there are 72 counties. there are thousand... a thousand plus municipalitys in the state. all those can't guarantee the kind of savings talked about. >> woodruff: wisconsin residents opposed to walker descended on madison over the weekend too. >> what do we want? >> woodruff: on saturday a much smaller number of people
7:21 pm
who support the governor's efforts came to the capital as well. many were organized by the tea party. >> you can't keep spending and spending. are we waiting for the whole economy to collapse? i'm a public worker myself. we need to be willing to make those sacrifices. >> woodruff: meanwhile democratic state senators who delayed action on the budget by fleeing the state vowed not to come back, even if it meant missing votes on other bills tomorrow. they remained in hiding at an undisclosed illinois location, gathering in a stairwell of this hotel. >> we want to slow up the process. the reason we have left the state temporarily is to give the people of the state a chance to realize what our governor is doing. >> for as long as it takes. >> as long as i get some clean underwear or as long as it takes. >> woodruff: back in madison teachers were among today's protestors. >> if the governor was serious about this bill he would have come to us and said we have economic issues. we need suggestions.
7:22 pm
we'd sit down and talk about it. to include gutting a law that was put into place in 1959, signed by the great daylord nelson granting public employees the right to collectively bargain is ludicrous. >> woodruff: nationwide other states suffering from budget woes that are considering similar measures, like ohio and endian a, are facing protests of their own this week. the proposed changes in workers' health and pension benefits would save wisconsin's government about $330 million between now and 2013. the state is facing a $3.7 billion deficit over the same period. for more on the state of play tonight, we're joined by jason stein, the state house reporter for the "milwaukee sentinel- journal." jason, thank you for talking with us. bring us up to date. what is the situation there right now at the state capital? >> well, we continue to have a crowd of thousands protesting
7:23 pm
inside and outside the capital. we have the assembly preparing to come in and possibly vote on this budget repair bill tomorrow, on tuesday. as well we have the senate preparing to come in on tuesday and vote not on this budget repair bill, which they can't do without a democrat present, but vote on other pieces of legislation with the democrats absent. >> woodruff: it was reported... we want to clarify this. the democrats offered or the unions, we should say, offered to go along with cuts in pay, cuts in benefits as long as they could keep their collective bargaining rights. the governor said no to that. is that accurate? >> that's right. over a couple of days they repeated that offer. democratic senators have also said they're prepared to come back if that sort of a deal is struck. the governor has repeatedly rejected that offer, saying it's not enough. >> woodruff: help us understand, what is it... how does the governor believe
7:24 pm
taking away those collective bargaining rights are going to help the state's fiscal picture? >> what he says is he says over, you know, the mid- and long-term that having state and local governments having more flexibility with their employees-- and by flexibility he means not having to bargain with their employees at the negotiating table with those unions over things like work rules, which ensure would be their health plan carrier, that sort of thing that the state would be able to save money and local government. one thing that is worth remembering about the governor is until just a couple months ago he was the executive of milwaukee county, wisconsin's largest county. there he had a series of running budget battles with unions, milwaukee county unions, in which he sought concessions from them that he was unable to get at the bargaining table.
7:25 pm
so he's saying i want to give local leaders what i didn't have when i was a county executive. >> woodruff: we also know that a couple of republicans state senators have tried to cut a deal... i guess they came up with a proposal that would allow the collective bargaining to end for two years but then it would come back in place in 2013. the governor has also said no to that. are there talks of any sort now going on between republicans and democrats behind the scene? >> we know that they've reached out to one another publicly and privately. we know there has been outreach. what we don't know is the level, the extent if at all that the sides are really talking back and forth. what the governor has said and what the unions and democrats have said is that their positions on these collective bargaining rights, these union bargaining rights that have been part of the wisconsin landscape now political
7:26 pm
landscape for decades, both sides say they won't give on their positions on that. but of course, you know, often in these types of stand-offs, that's what both sides say until a deal is struck. we stay tuned to that. >> woodruff: is there a sense of who has more leverage right now, jason? >> our story in this morning's paper looked at&t the leverage that both sides have. you know the republicans have this ability in the senate. they can't vote on a financial bill or a budget bill because they need 20 members present to do that. they've only got 19 so they need a democrat there. but for other pieces of legislation, garden variety legislation, they could vote on those. and there's certainly a lot of bills that, you know, democrats might oppose or might also support. and want to be there to vote for those bills so they have that ability to bring those sorts of pieces of legislation out. on the other side, part of this budget bill that doesn't get a lot of national
7:27 pm
attention is a refinancing of state debt that would free up 165 million dollars in this fiscal year for the state. now what the walker administration told us is they need the budget repair bill to pass by friday or saturday so they can do that debt refinancing. so the democrats were to stay in illinois, block passage of this bill into next week, the walker administration would be unable to do that. debt refinancing, which is something that they've said they want to do. but the walker administration has said that doesn't matter. if they stay away, we're sticking to our guns. we'll just to make cuts elsewhere in state programs to make up for that money if we don't get it through a refinance. >> woodruff: meanwhile all the rest of us, eyes glued on wisconsin. jason stein, thank you very much. from the face-off in wisconsin to a looming showdown in washington. the prospect of a federal
7:28 pm
government shutdown became more of a reality over the weekend after the u.s. house passed a funding measure to last through september. calling for $61 billion in cuts. the reductions include 3.8 billion in the department of state and foreign operations budget and $2.7 billion in environmental protection agency appropriations. house republicans also approved a proposal to block funding for implementing the health care reform law. and for their part senate democrats argue the house cuts go too far. lawmakers must strike a deal by march 4 when the current funding runs out to avoid bringing the federal government to a halt. joining us now to talk about all this is john harwood, the political reporter for the "new york times". john, what a story! give us a sense of some of the other spending cuts in this ledge legislation that have democrats still upset. >> across the board and some republicans are upset too. mitch mcconnell the republican leader in the senate sits on
7:29 pm
the appropriations committee. you can bet that there are cuts in this house bill that he disagrees with. it goes across the range of things. it's difficult to isolate a few high-profile programs because almost every program, education program, health and welfare program, the women, infant and children nutrition program in the agriculture department, one that has been very popular over the years. we've seen all of these things touched as well as you mentioned the foreign operations. some foreign aid programs have also been cut. so it's going to be difficult to focus on just a couple. everybody gets hit. >> woodruff: is it the showdown that it looks like it is or is there behind the scenes some talking going on? we've got what? a week before they even come back into session. then they've got that tight deadline. >> i think there is a lot of talking going on behind the scenes. certainly at the staff level. maybe at the principal level although we don't know all of those discussions because some people have gone dark in terms of communicating about that. but long story short, judy, i
7:30 pm
don't think there's going to be a government shutdown. i think the republicans know that and the polling tells us this that if there is a government shutdown and voters don't like it, they didn't like it in 1995-96, they're going to get blamed because the president has done a better job of persuading the american people that he's reaching out to republicans than they have of convincing people they're reaching out to democrats. the question is, how do you get to that choreographed outcome that allows john boehner to lead his freshmen who are very ardent for the cuts they've put through, to accept some lesser level of cuts that allow them to make a deal for the.... >> woodruff: exactly. these republicans held firm for 60... i mean there was a proposal for 30 billion. there was a proposal for... they insisted on the biggest possible cuts that they could get. these new house republicans. what is to make us think they're going to go along with moving in the senate direction which is going to be smaller cuts? >> it's interesting. i was talking to one of the leadership aides on the house side today. he said don't believe all the talk that you've heard, that john boehner cannot control
7:31 pm
his caucus. we're going to find out in the next couple of weeks because john boehner beings as a veteran deal maker and legislator in the congress, knows he's not going to get $61 billion in cuts. so how much below current spending levels do you have to go for him to be able to get a deal? will that deal include some democrats and republicans? and you get some republicans who want bigger cuts defecting and be willing to take that kind of an outcome? some of this is going to get settled i think judy in discussions between mitch mcconnell and john boehner because mitch mcconnell is going to help harry reid figure out what can get.... >> woodruff: the republicans essentially? >> yes. it's a multi-level conversation. it will be the white house to republicans, the white house to democrats, house and senate republicans talking to one another and then harry reid and mitch mcconnell in the senate who have served together a long time. they're going to have a discussion to figure out what can they move that they can then send back to the house that the house can take? >> woodruff: you mentioned the government shutdown.
7:32 pm
everybody assumes that... everybody is basing this on what happened back in the '90s. the government was shut down because of what the republicans did. they were blamed. everybody decided... is everyone in agreement that it's equally unpopular today? any sense that public opinion has shifted? >> certainly.... >> people don't want cuts so badly that they're will to go see the government shut down. >> republican conservatives argue that it is different, that the numbers are so big, a trillion-and-a-half deficit is simply changing the public mood. but one of the things that we've seen consistently is that the voters want government smaller in general. they want spending cut in general. when they get to some of the specifics, it's not so easy to sustain political support. i think if up didn't have republicans knowing that a shutdown was going to be unpopular you wouldn't have had paul ryan say over the weekend there's not going to be a shutdown. you wouldn't have republican leaders saying it's all the democrats talking about shutdown. we don't want that to happen.
7:33 pm
the reason is they think it will back lash them. >> woodruff: the sense is, john, that they can get this done by, what is it, march 4 is just around the corner. >> i think they can get it done. there's disagreement on that. some people think that these 87 freshmen republicans are going to stand up and insist on a level of cuts that the senate simply can't pass. i don't think that's likely to happen. i think what you're going to see is some showmanship, either the senate sending up the house-passed bill, sending something back and having a negotiate or perhaps if the senate refuses to do that, then the house will put a short-term extension, two weeks, a month, some lesser period of time, that has some cuts. remember john boehner said late last week we're not simply going to extend at current levels. he didn't say how much below current levels he would take in order to get a short-term extension. my guess is it won't take all of that much to to get that extension. >> woodruff: the role of the president. how much clout does he have? >> the fact that the president's numbers have risen
7:34 pm
since mid-term elections gives him some leverage. the poll numbers that i mentioned that show the public crediting him with wanting to work with republicans gives him some leverage. and one of the reasons for those poll numbers is that deal he made in the lame duck session on tax cuts. he was seen as compromising with them on extending those bush era tax cuts. certainly it's easier to give people money through tax cuts than it is to take away in spending cuts. he won some credibility with the public there. so he has some cards had to play. he'll also by the way if there is a shutdown have some advertise kregs in exactly what parts of the government get shut down and how quickly. >> woodruff: john harwood of the "new york times". we'll be watching this one too along with wisconsin. thank you. >> brown: next >> brown: next tonight, two stories on women in egypt. margaret warner has the first, a look at the harassment and dangers facing many egyptian women in their daily lives.
7:35 pm
>> warner: the vivid scenes from tahrir square showed women working side by side with men, demanding reforms and the ouster of president mubarak. but on the night of his resignation, in the square there was an ugly reminder of another side of egyptian life: a physical and sexual assault on cbs correspondent lara logan. she was eventually rescued from her male attackers by egyptian women and egyptian soldiers. the attack on logan unleashed a torrent of articles about the culture of sexual intimidation experienced by many egyptian women. in a 2008 survey, 83% of egyptian women in cairo said they'd been sexually harassed. we take up the issue with nihal elwan, who works on social development in the middle east for the world bank. egyptian by birth, she formerly worked for the united nations in cairo. and diane singerman is a professor, and director of middle east studies at american university in washington, d.c.
7:36 pm
welcome to you both. so that was pretty startling not to mention the attack on lara logan. is sexual harassment or intimidation really that pervasive in egypt and what form does it take? >> unfortunately yes, margaret. sexual harassment is a reality for almost all egyptian women, whether you're rich, poor, you take public transportation, you walk down the street, you're doing your shopping. whatever social class you're from, you're bound to get sexually harassed. it is part of our reality unfortunately. >> warner: and what are we talking about when we talk about sexual harassment? >> i think it varies. there's a lot of sort of pestering or harassing. a lot of it is quite mild. but sometimes it veers to the physical. cairo and lots of cities in egypt are very densely populated so people are in public space together and often they're in public space together on very crowded
7:37 pm
public transport. often it's kind of, it's rather mild but it's unwanted. it's not desired. so people... a lot of women feel it's a very unwelcome sort of situation. on the other hand.... >> warner: be more specific. are you talking about men touching women, groping them? that's what i read about. >> i would say a lot of it is verbal abuse. a lot of it is looks. a lot of it is cat calls but there is also groping. there is also people sort of touching you when you don't want to be touched. but that also is, i would say, not as common as the general sort of harassment that some people, including some young men, would not consider is so offensive. but women certainly do take offense. >> warner: nihal, women everywhere would say sexual harass many is a fact of life. anywhere. how different is it in egypt, say, from the west? or other parts of the arab world?
7:38 pm
>> it is very different in the sense that it's extremely prevalent. whether you're in cairo, in another city, in a resort on your holiday you're bound to get harassed. this is not necessarily... i mean, who get harassed are not necessarily wearing western dress. they're not necessarily provocatively dressed. you can be harassed where you're wearing... whether you're covered, just the fact that you're a female makes you vulnerable to harassment. this is different from what i've seen elsewhere. >> warner: and why is that? what is the mentality that produces this? or the conditions? >> i think there are several dynamics at work here. i feel that to begin with, the egyptian people have been going through decades of economic hardship, poverty, and in a sense i think they're completely disempowered. the only way they can regain ownership of a sense of manhood is by gaining ownership of the street.
7:39 pm
the street is becoming a male territory. women who decide to go down or walk down the street sort of lend themselves and challenge the patriarchy. that makes men want to challenge back. i think it is a form of challenging all the pressures that are surrounding egyptian men. this is the only form of defense against everything else that's making them depressed and oppressed. >> warner: what would you add to that? >> i think i would also say that in the streets especially there is a sort of notion of women's place belonging at home, sort of female domesticity. there are more young women going to school and so public space is more contested. in that sense, there's also countering discourses from the state as well and from sort of conservative religious forces that women maybe shouldn't be
7:40 pm
in some of the places that they're in. and at the same time the government also has somewhat of a tradition of being a little bit abusive or not really.... >> warner: give us an example. >> well, for example, one of the first egregious scandals was in 2005 when there were protests and some.... >> warner: political protests. >> about the referendum, et cetera. actually the police forces and some kind of party thugs started actually disrobing women and stripping women. >> warner: who were demonstrating. >> and the police did nothing. this was a way of intimidating protests. this was a way of humiliating women because what's different here it's not just normal political abuse and normal torture. for women, when their sexuality and their reputation is challenged, that is more humiliating to them. >> warner: we also read about the fact that there are many many unmarried young egyptian
7:41 pm
men who are not unmarried by choice but by economic necessity. describe that and is that a factor? >> it's definitely a factor because the marriage in egypt is extremely high. the egyptian population is going through a very difficult time economically. they're poor. they can't afford the cost of marriage. when men are about to get married at the need to buy an apartment and pay a dowry and they need to be able to fend for the wife should she choose to stay at home. for most men this is extremely difficult. the alternative if they can't access women through marriage it is to harass them. >> warner: i mean there are plenty of unmarried men in the united states. that doesn't occur. diane singerman. >> absolutely. i think that it's not just a question of unmarried men doing this. i think one of the larger issues here is that... it's the question of sexuality and talking about sexuality.
7:42 pm
i call this period waithood where there's so many people who are not marrying. it's quite difficult. they're sort of socially excluded. the question becomes, how can the women's movement, how can others in society sort of raise this issue about the predict amounts of young people. if they can't get married, what else are they allowed to do? and many ngos and others have been very involved in these kinds of questions. >> warner: do women complain and what happens when they do? is this becoming a subject of public debate or still taboo. >> up until very recently women were reluctant to talk about that. it's something that every egyptian knows but wouldn't talk about it or certainly not report it. this is how you live. you know it. if you would report a harassment charge to a police, they will laugh at you. nothing would happen. but in the past let's say 2 to 3 years ngo groups started talking about that. hopefully discussing some sort of legislation against harassment of women.
7:43 pm
but i think the government has been extremely reluctant to take this up seriously because harassment of women is one of the few sort of windows where they let the egyptian population sort of grieve and they don't want to take this up seriously. >> warner: or half the see gyp shun population. >> yes, half. >> warner: but the atmosphere in tahrir square during the first 18 days of this was so different, what do you think, fairly briefly here, but what explains that? does that mean that changing the status of women or improving the status of women is part of the reform agenda now? >> yeah, it's very interesting. protestors were talking about dignity. everyone was talking about the dignity revolution. i think that was extremely important. it was extremely powerful to women protestors that there was no sexual harassment, people were working together. that sort of dignity and respect and egyptians have it in their power was tremendously powerful for a lot of people. it suggests that the future is
7:44 pm
brighter in the sense of people being able to work on these issues and also respect dignity, sort of individual rights, is something that they're talking about. >> warner: yet there are no women for instance on this constitutional committee that was just appointed by the military. to revise the constitution. >> it is unfortunate. some rights groups have been talking about that and saying it's impossible if egypt is supposed to walk into a new era there has to be a representative of women in the committee. >> there is a woman on the committee of wise men as it's called. they did add a woman to that committee. >> warner: we'll have to leave it there. diane singerman and nihal elwan, thank you both. >> thank you very much. >> woodruff: now a portrait of one young >> warner: and now, a portrait of one young egyptian woman. her family urged her not to join the activists, but she did and became a symbol of the uprising. our pbs colleagues at frontline met her while they were in cairo preparing a documentary about the protests. the correspondent for "gigi's
7:45 pm
revolution" is inigo gilmor. >> it was in the early days of the egyptian revolution in tahrir square when we found 24 years gigi ibra hmham. >> we will not give up. >> reporter: she says she's here to change a regime her family has accepted for far too long. she agreed to talk us to meet them. >> this is a very upper middle class area. where mubarak lives actually. he lives like five minutes away. >> reporter: gigi studied at the american university of cairo and spent some years in california. we've come to see her aunt and sister. >> all my friends, all my family have been calling me because i'm the elder sister to her, gigi is going to probably going to go tomorrow. oh, my god.
7:46 pm
don't let her go. don't let her go. i got like 100 calls from my friends and family from all over. she doesn't even like listen to music. >> i want to explain to you i came to you many times to talk to you about what i'm doing. i wanted to sit with you and talk with you and explain like what i do and what it means to me and everything. you're like, well, okay. that's not going to make any difference. >> people are resistant to change. people don't want to change that fast. people are scared. okay. what's happening enough is. it's changed enough. give the guy a chance. >> my aunt now is intervening.
7:47 pm
>> i don't know why or how i was brought up (laughing). maybe i was adopted. i don't know. >> i don't think you were adopted. >> i mean, some people like myself and her have never seen another president. we've seen another president. i've never even seen another regime. >> he's a father figure. he is a father figure to a lot of.... >> you don't understand. >> yes i do. that's why i cried yesterday for two hours. i don't understand. >> why did you cry. >> when he was speaking on tv i felt like, okay, i saw him as my dad. i saw him as like a grandpa. whatever. i saw him as someone that when you see someone for 30 years and he's the president for 30 years, you get attached to him somehow.
7:48 pm
>> with whole movement is being undermined right now by people and by ignorance and lack of political life. i'm worried about it being turned around because i already see it happening in the streets with average citizens, with people like my family. protests will never die out. but the momentum and the support for it, that might die out. >> reporter: that same day the supporters are trying to get into the square. the pro mubarak supporters are trying to get into the square. >> the swarms of pro mubarak supporters are trying to infiltrate tahrir square, getting really violent. i'm trying to get as close as i can without obviously being hurt.
7:49 pm
they're telling me to stay in because it gets violent and they're throwing rocks. it's getting really bad. this is like war. this is a battle zone. one of the thugs that got caught. they beat him. to a point of no return. >> reporter: as gigi films the violence, she gets a phone call. >> that was actually my sister asking me where i am. i told her i'm away from the battle zone because she would obviously freak out. >> reporter: the protests enter the second week. the protestors return. tahrir square is full once again.
7:50 pm
>> still coming in strong numbers. concerning all the violence and everything that happened is unbelievable. >> reporter: it turns out we are no longer the only ones filming gigi. you think you're witnessing the domino effect. >> absolutely. >> reporter: with thousands following her on twitter, she's becoming something of a celebrity. so your message for the young people of yemen. >> fwchlt igi, what was your reaction to people around you? >> truly this has been a people's revolution. millions of people from all walks of life on the streets. >> reporter: she's becoming a face of the revolution. >> this is weird. >> reporter: now l-magazine wants a picture. and she'll even end up on the cover of "time" magazine.
7:51 pm
by the third week, the protests continued to grow. there are now hundreds of thousands in the square. >> i can't believe this. this is an historical moment in the revolution. my sister is here. that says a lot gee that's a revolution. >> it means that mubarak is this close to stepping down. you know? >> egyptians gather for anything. if you were here earlier when people were like dying and fighting, it was like a war zone here. people were being shot at. i think you would feel different. >> i told you this day was coming. you didn't believe me.
7:52 pm
i feel so like vindicated. >> the next day the word protestors have been waiting for. president mubarak resigned. >> the first person who called me was my sister. i didn't hear anything. i was screaming. i was crying. i couldn't hear anything. i don't want this moment to end. i don't want it to be over. i mean, it will continue obviously. but this moment of victory is so sweet. >> woodruff: tomorrow night, "frontline" looks at the youth
7:53 pm
movement that helped spark the egypt uprising, and at the opposition group, the muslim brotherhood. "revolution in cairo" can be seen on most pbs stations. >> brown: again, the major developments of the day. the bloodbath in libya engulfed tripoli for the first time, as security forces killed or wounded hundreds of demonstrators. the u.s. state department also ordered non-essential diplomats and relatives to leave. >> brown: and to hari sreenivasan, for what's on the newshour online. hari? >> sreenivasan: on making sense of financial news, paul solman puts the labor unrest in wisconsin in historical context. this president's day, we have a reading list for you from historians and regular newshour guests richard norton smith and ellen fitzpatrick. plus jeffrey brown talks about the art of sound in the movies with richard king, nominated for an oscar for the movie
7:54 pm
"inception." all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. jeff? >> brown: and that's the newshour for tonight. on tuesday, we'll look at the muslim brotherhood's role in a post-mubarak egypt. i'm jeffrey brown. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. we'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. thank you, and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> oil companies make huge profits. >> last year, chevron made a lot of money. >> where does it go? >> every penny and more went into bringing energy to the world. >> the economy is tough right now, everywhere. >> we pumped $21 million into local economies, into small businesses, communities, equipment, materials. >> that money could make a big difference to a lot of people.
7:55 pm
>> moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf railway, the engine that connects ut. pacific life-- the power to help you succeed. and by toyota. and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and...
7:56 pm
this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org vo:geico, committed to providing service to
7:57 pm
7:58 pm
its auto insurance customers for over 70 years. more information on auto insurance at geico.com or 1-800-947-auto any time of the day or night.
7:59 pm

339 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on